The Titfield Thunderbolt – more on this lovely film

This film seems to have acquired classic status among film fans, railway enthusiasts, nostalgia fans and almost everyone young and old.

It was in Technicolor which was a great boost and made the English countryside in summer look so lovely – as indeed it always does.

I always think that if I lived overseas and was homesick – as I frequently would be – I would watch this film again and again. It just evokes a feeling of the quirkiness of life in England at any time really but the storyline fits the fifties perfectly.

Thinking of what I have just written above, it occurs to me that watching this film would make me even more homesick

Just enjoy the Trailer Below – It gives us a taste of the treat we are in for :-

I do remember holidaying down in St Albans with my girl friend at the home of my family where we went as often as we could – this would be in the early to mid Sixties – and there was a Film Club in the Town Hall in St Peter’s Street. While we were there they were showing ‘The Titfield Thunderbolt’. In an immediate fit of excitement I rushed to buy tickets only to find out that they had sold out days before.

What a dis-appointment that was – I would think that it would have been a really great venue

ABOVE – The old Titfield Thunderbolt is brought back into services to save the day

Stanley Holloway and John Gregson

I always think that even when in his early career as he would be here, that he was self confident enough to hold his own in any scene with any actor – he was not overawed in any way. I have watched him in many films and noticed this and admired him for it

An early film for Sid James – ABOVE

Naunton Wayne, Stanley Holloway and Gabrielle Brune enjoy a drink as the train travels along it’s route.

In the spring of 1952 a car was making its way through the lanes of the Somerset countryside. Seated in the car were film director Charles Crichton and cinematographer Douglas Slocombe. The pair were on the look-out for the perfect country railway track, a possible location for the latest Ealing Comedy. Everything was already set; the stars had been chosen, the screenplay and the scripts were being finely tweaked in Ealing, and filming was already scheduled for the summer of 1952 with hopes that the film would be completed and released by the spring of the following year. But the production didn’t have its most important ingredient: the film’s location. 

The story of The Titfield Thunderbolt actually goes back to the spring of 1951, when regular Ealing writer T. E. B. Clarke (Hue and Cry, 1947, Passport to Pimlico, 1949, The Blue Lamp, 1950 and The Lavender Hill Mob, 1951) was on holiday in North Wales: “I found myself standing on a station of the narrow-gauge Talyllyn Railway, blinking incredulously at a notice which said, ‘Volunteer Platelayers Required’. Curiosity had to be satisfied, and my inquiries brought the information that this was a private line run through the summer months by railways enthusiasts from all parts of the country, who spent their holidays as engine-drivers, firemen, guards or booking clerks. Thus was born the idea of The Titfield Thunderbolt”

After seeing Clarke’s draft proposal, with some elements influenced by the Talylln railway manager’s published book Railway Adventure (1953), Ealing boss Michael Balcon green lit the project.

There was one slight problem, however, trying to find a big enough location – one that included a good few miles worth of track as well as a train station. To top it all off they needed to have classic British countryside as a backdrop (perfect for Technicolor). They seemed to be asking too much.

The location ended up being a seven mile stretch of line between Limpley Stoke and Camerton. When Crichton and Slcombe recced the disused line and train station they realised they had found their Titfield. Slocombe, armed with a 16mm Ben & Howell colour camera shot a number of sequences in the area, giving a general idea of the surroundings for the rest of the team back at Ealing. That footage still survives today. 

Hugh Griffiths joins the crowds

Filming lasted 6 weeks from June into July with members of the general public straining to see what was happening in and around Limpley Stoke. Crowds were held back at Britsol Temple Meads as the crew filmed sequences which doubled as Titfield’s local town. Filming was also frustrating at times; due to the very bright, sunny weather they had throughout the summer. 

The plan was simple: Crichton wanted an idealised country village set within an even more idealised English countryside, which Slocombe delivered. Taking possible influences from the famous national railway posters, Slocombe gave The Titfield Thunderbolt the essence of nostalgia that both Balcon and Crichton wanted.

Slocombe later said “It was a fun film to make. it was fun because we had our own railway. Also, one could feel when making it that this was a bit of old England that was going forever – but I was very conscious of the beauty of the English countryside.” 

Filming on location also gave Slocombe the chance to free himself from the prying eyes of Technicolor’s ‘quality control team’.

What we end up with is a beautiful film – not Ealing’s best comedy, but most certainly their most beautiful and, if anything, it symbolised the true spirit of what Michael Balcon wanted to do in the later history of Ealing Studios: to celebrate the lost English countryside. 

The railway has always had an incredibly important place in the history of cinema. Many films have been celebrated, but there is only one film that has been celebrated by film and railway enthusiasts alike, Charles Crichton’s The Titfield Thunderbolt

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The Siege of Pinchgut 1959

I am very familiar with this film from remembering it being released and shown – to the reviews in Picture Show and Picturegoer Magazines

It seemed an odd title at first, but when I came to learn that Pinchgut is a tiny fortified island in Sydney Harbour, then somehow to me it had more appeal. We then knew what the film was about and where it was set

The Film had been on ‘Talking Pictures’ and having recorded it, I sat down and watched it this Saturday afternoon – and am so glad that I did.

It was a tense drama played out against this Sydney Harbour background with much of the filming done on Pinchgut island.

We see great shots in and around Sydney Harbour – shots of how it was in those days, before the famous Opera House was built.

Heather Sears was the pretty female lead with Aldo Ray in the main role

Heather Sears, Barbara Mullen and Gerry Duggan

ABOVE: Aldo Ray I remember him being around in films but he was never an actor on the radar somehow. He seems to be very well thought of as an actor – more so these days in fact.

Apparently he was someone who was not afraid to voice his opinions – something that would not always go down well – and he did tend to drink too much which would not be helpful. Nevertheless he had a long and quite successful career.

This film offered him a good role and in fairness he was well up to the job.

ABOVE – Neil McMallum

Approaching the climax of the film here with these dramatic actions shots on Pinchgut

The military storm Pinchgut ABOVE

Aldo Ray

From Pinchgut Island looking at the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Almost the end of the siege ABOVE


A Michael Balcon Production

Out of interest an actor in this film, playing a police inspector in Sydney, was Kenneth J Warren who was actually born in Sydney. He was in quite a lot of films but also ran a very popular Australian Restaurant just of Leicester Sqaure in London. He sadly died very young at 43 years old.

I mention Kenneth Warren here because I remember him from a Steptoe episode ‘Cuckoo in the Nest’ where he played Albert’s long lost son who surprises them when he comes ‘out of the blue’ to visit and decides to stay.

Harold is none too pleased as his father lavishes all affection on this new ‘son’ and Harold leaves and takes a room somewhere else close by and sets up a rival business with a horse and cart.

Albert slowly comes to realise that the new ‘son’ is lazy and constantly after money – when it comes to getting out on the rounds with the horse and cart he is reluctant and seems to be more interested in the horses ‘running at Kempton Park’ than the business – and he is continually asking for money to bet with.

His ‘new son’ clears off after Albert tells him off and then Albert has to meekly go round and persuade Harold to return which he of course does.

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The Flame and the Arrow 1950

Now here is an action packed, adventure tale that lives up to all schoolboy hopes – when we were taken to see this we were just wide-eyed and totally overawed – it was just brilliant.

Here is one stunt BELOW – done by Burt Lancaster which, at the time was just so impressive in that woodland setting – a studio set but again just how good that was.

Burt Lancaster falls backwards with a back flip onto the ground BELOW

Backward Drop in The Flame and The Arrow | First Impressions

Virginia Mayo starred alongside Burt Lancaster

I am not familiar with the musical score from the film but it must have been pretty exceptional to be released as a record at that time

I have used this picture before – showing a wonderful Matte Painting shot very early in the film

Also I have come across this picture – BELOW of Burt Lancaster with Nick Cravat – I felt sure that this still is from ‘The Crimson Pirate’ made a little later, but now it seems that this is from ‘The Flame and the Arrow’ – I still have my doubts though

BELOW – I have cropped the picture a little to see how it would have looked on the screen – although a still photographer is in the foreground – doing a good job I am sure

The Flame and the Arrow – in fact it seems the photographer did do a very good job – picture BELOW

The Flame and the Arrow

We keep coming up with these Double Bill promotions – what about this one for two great adventures stories :-

A really good promotion I reckon – both these films excellent, colourful and action packed – with Joan Rice in there too in the South Sea Islands‘His Majesty O’Keefe’ of course

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Fabulous Double Feature on Video – ‘She’ and ‘The Reptile’

You just couldn’t get much better than this as a double bill – a Video that I purchased when with my family a few years ago in Port Adelaide at a very large – and very good- market there.

Both of these films are, of course, from the Sixties

First the trailer :-

Ursula Andress looking very beautiful in ‘She’ – the spelling on the video sleeve above is clearly wrong.

ABOVE – Jacqueline Pearce – a useless fact but this young actress was married and divorced twice and in each case her former husbands both went on tomarry Felicity Kendall

Jennifer Daniel BELOW- a very attractive young lady – starred in ‘The Reptile’

Jennifer Daniel and Noel Wilman in a tense scene
Ray Barret, John Laurie and Jennifer Daniel

This was just before John Laurie became a firm favourite in ‘Dads Army’

Jennifer Daniel

I have written about this lovely actress before –

What a lovely looking girl she was. The other evening I watched one of the Edgar Wallace Mysteries on Talking Pictures – and she was in it – this is what prompted me to write this article having looked a bit further into her life story.

She was actually in THREE of the Edgar Wallace Mystery series – Marriage of Convenience,  Clue of the Silver Key and  Return to Sender.

She was married to Dinsdale Landen the actor from 1959 until his death in 2003.

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The Caine Mutiny -Soundtrack on Vinyl

Now this is a little off track for this Blog but it does feature a very well known film from 1954 – ‘The Caine Mutiny’ starring Humphrey Bogart in one of his most famous screen roles

It’s extremely unusual for a film soundtrack album to gain significant traction as a rare collectible item , but that’s exactly what happened with The Caine Mutiny from one of golden-age Hollywood’s most beloved composers, Max Steiner.

It was released by RCA Victor who apparently had not actually secured proper rights, which led to its being almost immediately recalled.

It is estimated that are only around ten original copies still in existence, and their value is very high indeed.

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The Mole People 1956 – John Agar

We were treated to a lot of these Horror films in the early to mid fifties and beyond – and truth to say, we loved them

John Agar the star of this film seemed to be an actor identified with this sort of film.

Maybe that is a little unfair in a way, because he was in many others – in fact looking back it is very unfair because he had a long film career and was not in that many Horror Films.

He began right at the top in Westerns with John Wayne ‘Fort Apache’ being the first one then came ‘She Wore a Yellow Ribbon’ and not long after that, a war film ‘Sands of Iwo Jima’ – all with John Wayne starring

Before ‘The Mole People’ he had been in ‘Revenge of the Creature’ and a film I remember from when it showed locally at a small cinema nearby ‘Tarantula’ – famous for being Clint Eastwood’s first film.

John Agar

John Agar achieved cult status as the exceptionally handsome but bland leading man in 1950s science-fiction classics such as Tarantula, Revenge of the Creature, and a others. By 1945, he had become one of the most famous men in the USA when he married 17year-old Shirley Temple.

John Agar with Shirley Temple enjoying a drink

ABOVE – Having a drink together – trouble is it seemed that John Agar, at that time, like more than just ‘a drink’

Mind you, later in his life he brought this well under control

John Agar with Shirley Temple looking very happy with their baby girl.
They certainly would be happy
What a lovely picture that is

John Agar was born in 1921 and his family was well-known in the Chicago meat-packing industry. While in the army, he met Shirley Temple through the actress Zasu Pitts, a friend of his mother, and their romance captured headlines all over the world.

Mr. Agar was a 24-year-old physical training instructor at March Field at Riverside, Calif., in 1945 when it was arranged for him to escort Ms. Temple, then a 16-year-old child star, to a Hollywood party given by her boss, David O. Selznick.

The marriage undoubtedly kick-started his career as an actor, but the divorce in 1949 – Shirley Temple cited mental cruelty and drink problems – attracted equal notoriety and the descent into B movies began, not helped by John Agar’s growing dependence on alcohol.

John Agar and Shirley Temple appeared together in two films, ”Fort Apache” and ”Adventure in Baltimore.”

He was not a particularly good actor and he knew it. “I had never really planned to be an actor, and it was thrust on me at an early age,” he said in 1988. “It was not something I really wanted”

Later on John Wayne, who appeared with him in ”Fort Apache” and ”Sands of Iwo Jima,” tried to revive Mr. Agar’s career by casting him in ”The Undefeated,” ”Chisum” and ”Big Jake.’

He eventually joined Alcoholics Anonymous and later appeared in his last major film in 1976, the remake of ”King Kong.” In later years he sold insurance and real estate.

John Agar, with his alcoholic days long behind him, had happily remarried but his wife Loretta Combs, who had been a model – they had married in 1951 – died in 2000 After that he still occasionally appeared on television and in films, and was a popular guest at science-fiction and horror movie conventions in the USA.

However he never took any of it too seriously: “I always kind of had the feeling that when people looked at some of these science-fiction things, we were going to get a big laugh.”

John Agar died in 2002

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Sean Connery has died

It is with sadness we learn of the death of Bond actor Sean Connery at the age of 90.

As this Blog is of the 50’s era, I will just concentrate on his career during that period.

One of his early roles was in ‘Hell Drivers’ along with Stanley Baker, and not long afterwards he headed for Hollywood for Walt Disney to appear in ‘Darby O’Gill and the Little People’ and a year or less after that he came to a sticky end when Tarzan fired an arrow into him in ‘Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure’

ABOVE – Sean Connery will soon be killed off by Tarzan

Sean Connery in action as a baddie in Tarzans Greatest Adventure

Here he is with Anthony Quayle who looks very menacing – ABOVE Tarzan eventually deals with them both

It was while filming the Tarzan adventure that he got wind of – and got the part of James Bond. I have read that he was wanted again for another Tarzan picture – but of course instead of that, he would have this much more famous role to play

BELOW – ‘Darby O’Gill and the Little People’

He had a singing role in ‘Darby O’Gill’ and in fairness looked very youthful and was good as was his co-star Janet Munro who went on to make more films for Walt Disney

Sean Connery enjoys a tender moment with Janet Munro – ABOVE

I love this scene right at the end of the film – a Happy Ending

In ‘Hell Driver’s – BELOW

In his private life, he tends not to get such star treatment – I think of his ex wife Diane Cilento – I have visited her home and her Karnak Theatre up inland of Mossman in Queensland Australia – she did not have a high opinion of him, although she did, in fairness say that they had a very happy marriage until the Bond era began and then they just could hardly leave the house without reporters surrounding them which put a huge strain on them both.

Much later Roald Dhal who had been the script writer for one of the Bond films was somewhat underwhelmed by Sean Connery, who he saw a lot of during filming. Roald Dahl certainly didn’t have a high opinion of him.

We must put these thoughts aside though at this time – he has died and we must remember that he did contribute greatly to the British Film industry and he has to be remembered as one of the most successful stars of that era.

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Peter Ellenshaw – an insight to Walt Disney

Late in 1947, Peter Ellenshaw’s work caught the attention of an Art Director for the Walt Disney Studios. Disney was in the pre-planning stages of his very first live-action film, Treasure Island (1950), which would be produced in the United Kingdom.

Walt Disney chatting with Peter Ellenshaw

Thus began a professional collaboration and friendship with Walt Disney that would span over 30 years and 34 films. Ellenshaw supplied mattes for the next three remaining Disney films made in Great Britain (The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men, The Sword and the Rose, and Rob Roy) and soon relocated to California in 1953, where he did matte work on Disney’s first U.S.-produced live-action feature film, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Ellenshaw’s matte paintings saved Walt the cost of expensive location trips and elaborate settings. When Davy Crockett headed for 19th century Washington, D.C. or Mary Poppins flew over the rooftops of London or Robin Hood stormed the castle or Paul Revere rode down the streets of 18th Century Boston—that was all the magic of Peter Ellenshaw.

More than 10 years after his work on Treasure Island, Peter won his own Academy Award for his work on Mary Poppins (1964). In all, he was involved in 34 films for Walt Disney Productions between 1947 and 1979.

As a matte artist, the wide range of Ellenshaw’s contributions can be found in Johnny Tremain, Old Yeller, Zorro, The Great Locomotive Chase, Swiss Family Robinson, The Absent Minded Professor, Blackbeard’s Ghost, and The Love Bug, to name just a handful of films that featured his artistic talents.

In addition, Peter contributed to the special photographic effects of Darby O’Gill and the Little People, served as production designer on Island at the Top of the World, and as art director on Bedknobs and Broomsticks and The Black Hole.

One of Ellenshaw’s first Disney projects upon his arrival at the Studio was to create a rendering for Walt’s newest project, Disneyland. Ellenshaw went to work painting an aerial view of the proposed park on a 4-foot by 8-foot piece of storyboard. The painting was then used by Walt Disney to help introduce television audiences to his new project as well as attracting potential sponsors.

Ellenshaw contributed his artistic touch directly to many of the early Tomorrowland attractions at the new theme park, including the first Circarama show “A Tour of the West” sponsored by American Motors, TWA’s Rocket Ship to the Moon and Space Station X-1 that showed a “satellite view of America from 50 miles up.” In 1993, Peter Ellenshaw was named a Disney Legend.

In his spare time, Peter primarily painted sailing ships and, later, seascapes. It was Walt Disney who introduced Peter to the beauty of the desert. When Walt was in the hospital shortly before his death, Peter painted for him a desert vista featuring the smoke tree that Walt loved.

The tree had a light, feathery appearance resembling smoke, and was prominent at Walt’s vacation home in Palm Springs, the Smoke Tree Ranch.

Walt’s secretary, Tommie Wilck, took it to the hospital on December 10, 1966 (five days before Walt’s death) and told Peter how Walt proudly told the hospital staff that “one of his boys” had painted it especially for him.

Here are some excerpts from an interview with Peter in 1997with Jim Korkis

Jim Korkis: How did you get an offer to work for Disney?

Peter Ellenshaw: I got a call from an art director, Tom Morahan, who was working on a film for Disney. The exciting thing was I hadn’t thought of working for Disney. He was an animator. But when my chance came, I grabbed it. I said, “Wow, even if I only get to do one painting for Disney, I’ve got to do it.” It turned out the film was “Treasure Island.” It was the first time I had painted ships for a film and I think it was Walt’s first experience with mattes.

I had been told it was probably not going to be worth my time because they only needed a few mattes but I ended up doing 40 or more mattes in that film. On The Sword and the Rose, I painted 62 mattes in 27 weeks. What was I thinking?

J.K.: Of course, Walt told a quite different story of how you met.

P.E.: That story has haunted me for years. I am sure Walt was trying to joke but many of the men in the room didn’t realize that fact.

Walt came into the dailies one day and everyone was sitting there and he said, “You know how I met Peter? I was walking around Trafalgar Square and there was this guy doing some drawings on the pavement. He was painting a loaf of bread on the sidewalk. He’d written ‘Easy to draw, hard to earn.’ And I thought the drawing was pretty good so I said, ‘They’re pretty good. How would you like to come to America and work for me?’ and he said, ‘Yes, I would, governor!’ and that was Peter!”

And what bothers me to this day is that some of those guys believed him! It is a complete myth but Walt loved to tell stories and to have fun so I have seen it printed as if it were absolutely the truth.

J.K.: How did you get assigned to do that huge painting of Disneyland?

P.E.: Walt came in one morning. I’d only been there a few days in Burbank. He came in and said, “I want you to paint a picture. We’ve got the plans of Disneyland. If you could do a perspective, aerial drawing of it, that’s what I need.” I got a storyboard. We had big storyboards there about four feet by eight feet and I thought I’d paint on that. We didn’t have the facilities that you have now. I set this thing up and started painting it.

After I had finished, he came in and said, “I am coming in tomorrow with some people from Look magazine. I am coming in and I would like you to be here because I’d like you to be included. We’ll be here at 8:00 am.” (It appears as a two page full color spread in Look magazine November 2, 1954.)

J.K.: For a long while, I thought you had done two versions because I remember seeing on television the daylight version and also a nighttime version.

P.E.: I used some luminescent paint so under fluorescent light, it would show what the park would look like at night. Walt did do that with the painting on one of the television shows going from day to night and it was very effective. He used that same image on postcards. He sold thousands and thousands of postcards and I never got a penny of that! (laughs) It was used on souvenir books. All over the place. They later found it in a shed at the Disney Studio somewhere and it was restored and exhibited at the Disney Gallery at Disneyland.

J.K.: Actually, your work on “Davy Crockett” led to an interesting request from Walt, didn’t it?

P.E. Walt came in one day. We were at the rushes and that was the place to be because the boss would be there and he gives great ideas. He’d tap me on the shoulder because I’d be in the row in front of him. Boy, I felt good. “Oh, the boss touched me and said, ‘Hello’.” I was in heaven. He didn’t do that with everybody. I really felt privileged.

He tapped me on the shoulder that morning. “My wife’s a fan of yours.” But he said it very begrudgingly. “She likes that Davy Crockett cabin painting and would like a copy. Talk to me later.” Copying a picture, especially your own and trying to make it the same is a fool’s thing. When you try and do it again, you try to improve it stupidly. You can’t improve it. You make it dead. You lose the life of it.

When I had finished the copy, it looked nice enough but it didn’t have that touch. She was sharp enough to see it. I took it to them at their home. “Oh, very nice,” she said. “Very nice” is always a dangerous one. She took the painting and later I heard that she had sent it down to Disneyland and asked for the one they were displaying, the original I had done for the television show. So she had the copy hang down at Disneyland and she had the original. Eventually she got the copy as well. I went to her house recently to photograph it for my book.

J.K.: Mary Poppins remains one of the best beloved films yet most people probably don’t know about a special voice you provided.

P.E.: In those days, the wonderful part of the whole place was that you were called often to do all sorts of odd things like voiceover work. Now it is done by professionals. Now it is not allowed for someone like me to just drop down and do it. In those days, it was fine.

I am also something else in the film. I am an actor in it. I am the hand that goes into draw when they say “there’s a road down through…” when Bert is sketching.

J.K.: And of course, you also get credit for the “Step In Time” number in Mary Poppins.

P.E.: Bill Walsh who co-produced Mary Poppins came in one day and asked me if I knew any vulgar songs. That wasn’t something obscene but something common. Something low-life chimney sweeps might sing. Well, I had gone on a pub crawl and my friend and I would get everyone up in the different pubs we went to and have them sing and dance to an English song called “Knees Up, Mother Brown.”

I showed Bill and he immediately brought in Walt and storyman Don DaGradi, who was one of the best storymen ever at Disney. We danced across the room and back with our arms linked and our knees up very high. It seemed very strenuous for Walt. We didn’t know at the time he might be sick. Walt said to bring in the Sherman Brothers who were writing the music and I had to do it all over again.

Of course, they couldn’t use the actual song so they came up with another song that was similar. I think it was a little too elegant in the final film. It really is much more fun when it is vulgar.

J.K.: Whatever happened to all these great matte paintings that you did?

P.E.: We had to have glass and it was a difficult time to get the glass when I would need another one the next day. We sent those matte paintings down to the painters and they would wash it, clean it all off, so we had another one for the next day.

If I had been allowed to keep them which I wouldn’t have been, I would be a much richer person now. (laughs) They were painted on glass with oil… later acrylic… and then they were scraped off almost immediately so we could reuse the glass for another painting. I’ve seen a few that weren’t scraped and the paint didn’t survive well. It yellowed and chipped. It was like the cels for the animation. It was just part of the process.

It wasn’t meant to survive beyond being filmed. Remember that to judge a matte painting you have to stand back where the camera is and make sure not to give it too much detail, just enough to fool the eye. Too much finish on it and it becomes static. It doesn’t look quite real. One time, Walt was looking at one of my mattes and said, “Looks like a painting” and all the guys started laughing thinking it was a joke but it wasn’t. Walt was trying to tell me to put less into it, not in terms of quality, but detail so that it was the illusion of being real.

J.K.: What was Walt Disney really like?

P.E.: What was Walt Disney like? That’s what we’d all like to know, isn’t it? Walt was the only person who was not an artist who could talk to you like an artist. The only problem you would have had with Walt was if you were not as enthusiastic about a project as he was. I would remember him coming by and talking to me about something and would get me all stirred up with enthusiasm and I would start work on the project. It wasn’t a false enthusiasm. He really believed it could be done and he was able to make you believe it.

Great man. Wonderful man. Loved him. Missed him. Missed him terribly. Missed him so much that I’d wake up in the middle of the night and wonder why I was weeping. It was because I’d lost him. It was wonderful knowing him.

I was just one of the people who knew Walt just from live action. I’m not boasting about that. I’m very humble about that. I used to sit around with these men who had worked with him for so many years in animation and we’d ask, “What makes this ordinary man so extraordinary?” Because he seems so normal. He seems so common in his thinking. He has no taste. Suddenly, you realize he has exquisite taste. He had a certain way of thinking and looking at problems from over there.

We were all looking at it the same way from the common view and he’d say something and we thought he hadn’t been listening to what we were saying at all. Actually, he had seen it from another view. In meetings, I felt obligated to come up with something so I’d come up with some stupid thing. “Peter, what are you talking about?” he’d say and lift that eyebrow. What an extraordinary man! Just an ordinary, humble, gentle tyrant.

J.K.: Any final thoughts you’d like to share?

P.E.: Extraordinary things happen in your life if you want them to.

BELOW – A much later film and not one of Peter Ellenshaws but it shows what a wonderful technique matte painting in films was and is, and the sheer scale and illusion that it can add. The film was ‘Predator’ which was released in 1987 – and which did extremely well at the Box Office

The Pictures below are from an excellent web site with loads of details on this technique – I thorouhly recommend you visit :-

http://www.nzpetesmatteshot.blogspot.co.nz/2010/07/creature-feature-special-visual-effects.html

This is one of my own very favourite web sites

ABOVE – The actual Film shot – and BELOW with the bottom half a matte painting

ABOVE – This is what we, the audience, saw

ABOVE – The Bottom Matte

The Bottom Matte Painted on Glass ABOVE ready to be filmed when lined up with the top picture

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The Birthday Present 1957 -Tony Britton and Sylvia Sims

Tony Britton, Sylvia Syms and Geoffrey Keen star in this BAFTA-nominated drama focusing on a man whose life is turned upside down by the far-reaching repercussions of an ill-judged action. The Birthday Present has been shown recently on Talking Pictures

Tony Britton and Sylvia Sims

Returning from a business trip, toy salesman Simon Scott is caught attempting to smuggle a wristwatch – bought for his wife’s birthday – through Customs. He is arrested and, due to a bungled defence by his solicitor, obliged to serve a three-month prison sentence. It is only the beginning of his woes; his employer, Colonel Wilson, is understanding, but he is ultimately forced to sack Simon, who discovers that finding another job under such circumstances is extremely difficult. But Colonel Wilson is determined to help his former employee find a solution…

THE BIRTHDAY PRESENT is a very interesting British crime drama of 1957. Tony Britton who seemed to be on Television a lot at that time often in Francis Durbridge serials starred.

Tony Britton had also been in about Ten of the BBC Sunday Night Theatre productions for Television from 1952 and right through the fifties

Not that many years ago we saw him on stage in a tour of ‘And Then There Were None’ the famous Agatha Christie play. A lot of years before this he had played Professor Higgins in the West End in ‘My Fair Lady’

Back to ‘The Birthday Present’ and it is a quite gripping story.

The supporting cast is very good and includes Geoffrey Keen as his sympathetic employer, plus more minor parts for Ian Bannen, Thorley Walters, and Harry Fowler. .

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More Double Bills at your local Cinema

I always loved it when we were give a chance to see TWO ‘big’ pictures – often an older one with a fairly new film OR a Horror film paring which happened quite often in those days, when they were really popular – we just loved to be scared

ABOVE – ‘Horrors of the Black Museum’ is a well known ‘horror’ film with Michael Gough giving a great performance.

As for ‘Wicked Wicked’ in the ‘new process’ of Duo-Vision – I have not heard of it – or the film process – although it does come to us from MGM – the biggest of the film studios

However I have just come across this :-

In 1973, writer/director Richard L. Bare (best known for the “Joe McDoakes” shorts of the ’40s/’50s and for directing most episodes of “Green Acres“) set out to create a new way of making movies.  Called “Duo-Vision,” today this technique is most commonly referred to as “split-screen” — though the gimmick was that the films were to be presented in split-screen from start to finish.  For the first film, Bare revised an unsold screenplay titled “The Squirrel.”  The result was “Wicked, Wicked,” a campy horror-schlocker openly derived from “The Phantom of the Opera,” heavily influenced by Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” and with the sensibilities of a ’60s sitcom.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t a hit, plans for subsequent Duo-Vision films were scrapped and, because the film couldn’t be cropped for TV/home video, it was basically forgotten.

ABOVE – ‘The Wizard of Oz’ seemed to be released or re-leased periodically and here it is alongside ‘Tom Thumb’

These are very much more recognisable and lovely family films

ABOVE – I remember seeing ‘Johnny Dark’ at the cinema when on holiday in St.Albans – quite a good car racing story. As for ‘Man Without a Star’ it may have been good but it wasn’t a film that would have pulled me in at all

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